Round King Cake decorated with white glaze and yellow, green, and purple sprinkles with a slice being lifted out to show the rolled cake with cream cheese and pecan filling (with logo overlay)

King Cake with Cream Cheese and Pecan Filling

King Cake is a Mardi Gras tradition that has made it's way to much of the Upper Gulf Coast. Bake your own to celebrate Mardi Gras!

Before moving to Texas, I had never even heard of King Cake. Justin said he had tried it before, but didn’t know what it was called. There’s a lot of Cajun/New Orleans influence in the Houston area, so many of the Mardi Gras traditions have migrated here.

One such tradition is the King Cake. From what we have been told, most of the New Orleans influence in Houston came after many were displaced from Hurricane Katrina. That was long before we were in the area, so I can’t personally say whether that’s true or not.

Celebrated across the Gulf Coast region from the Florida Panhandle to East Texas, King cake parties are documented back to the 18th century. The king cake of the Louisiana tradition comes in a number of styles. The most simple, said to be the most traditional, is a ring of twisted cinnamon roll-style dough. It may be topped with icing or sugar, which may be colored to show the traditional Mardi Gras colors of green, yellow, and purple.

Traditionally, a small plastic or porcelain baby is hidden in the king cake. Originally, the baby was placed in the cake to symbolize baby Jesus. Fava beans were also used to represent Jesus.
Today, the baby symbolizes luck and prosperity to whomever finds it in his/her slice of cake. That person is also responsible for purchasing next year’s cake,[ or for throwing the next Mardi Gras party. In some traditions, the finder of the baby is designated “king” or “queen” for the evening.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_cake

Another tradition common to the Cajun background is the crawfish boil. Every Spring, when the crawfish are in season and at their largest size, a crawfish boil is an ideal get-together. It’s not just about the food, but it’s a whole event. Again, I hadn’t heard of this until we moved to Texas. But we’ve been to at least one every year since and have hosted our own as well. When it’s not crawfish season, we make an easy Shrimp Boil Foil Wrap to hold us over.

Tyler holding a crawfish at our neighbor's crawfish boil in 2018.
Tyler holding a crawfish at our neighbor’s crawfish boil in 2018.

The King Cake was fun to make because it’s very different from any other cake I’ve made. I was also able to make two cakes from the dough, so I made one with nuts and one without. I don’t care for nuts, especially in desserts, which is why I don’t often eat the cake.

But, with everything, that’s the beauty of making your own at home. You can control exactly what goes into a recipe. King Cake can be made with multiple different types of filling. So you can find an option to suit your tastes.

Step by Step

Combine the sour cream, butter, salt, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring until the butter melts. There should be no more lumps of sour cream.

Top view of a saucepan filled with melted butter, sour cream, and sugar on a white and grey marble surface

Remove from the heat and allow it to cool to a temperature of about 100F-110F.

Close up of a candy thermometer in a nonstick saucepan with sour cream and melted butter

Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup, stir together the yeast, water, and 1 tbsp of sugar. Let it stand for 5 minutes.

Yeast and water in a glass measuring cup on a white and grey marble surface

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, 2 eggs, and 2 cups of bread flour. Use the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed. I used speed 4 until it’s smooth, about one minute.

Wet ingredients for king cake dough in a stainless steel mixing bowl on a white and grey marble surface

Gradually stir in 4 more cups of the bread flour until it forms into a dough.

King cake dough in a stainless steel bowl on a white and grey marble surface

Dust a work surface with 1/4 cup of the bread flour and turn the dough out. Knead while adding up to another 1/2 cup of bread flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough should be tacky but still release easily from the work surface.

King cake dough turned out on a white and grey marble surface sprinkled with flour
Rolled, kneaded king cake dough on a white and grey marble surface

Place the dough in a well-greased bowl and turn to cover with the grease.

Kneaded dough covered in oil in a stainless steel bowl on a white and grey marble surface

Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. This takes about 45-60 minutes, depending on the air temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling by using the stand mixer to beat the cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla until it’s smooth. I used the whisk attachment for this.

Crumbly king cake filling in a stainless steel bowl on a white and grey marble surface

Beat in the egg.

Stainless steel bowl with cream cheese filling on a white and grey marble surface

Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down and divide the dough in half. Keep one piece covered while working with the other. On a lightly floured work surface, roll one piece of the dough out to a rectangle about 22×12 inches.

Dough spread out thin on a white and grey marble surface

Spread half of the filling out over the dough. I found an angled spatula worked really well for this part. Leave about 1/4″ around the edges.

Cream cheese filling spread out on the king cake dough on a white and grey marble surface

Sprinkle the filling with half of the chopped pecans.

Close up of pecans on top of the cream cheese frosting on king cake

Starting with the long side, gently roll the cake and press the seam to seal.

King cake dough rolled into a log on a white and grey marble surface

Place the cake with the seam side down and carefully roll into a circle. Press the edges together to seal. It may help to moisten the dough with a small amount of water to get it to stick together.

Rolled King Cake dough on a white and grey marble surface

Repeat with the second piece of cake dough and remaining filling and pecans. Cover the cakes and let them rise until they double in size. This should take another 45-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Uncover the dough rings and bake them for about 25-30 minutes until they are a deep golden brown.

Baked King Cake on a baking stone on a white and grey marble surface

Let the cake rest on the pan for about 10-15 minutes, then move to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. It takes about 1 1/2 hours for the cakes to cool all the way through.

Baked king cake on a wire rack on a white and grey marble surface

Meanwhile, bake the second cake if they didn’t both fit in the oven together (mine didn’t).

Once the cakes have cooled, prepare the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar, melted butter, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl.

Stainless steel mixing bowl with powdered sugar and melted butter on a white and grey marble surface

Stir in 3 tbsp of milk, adding more as needed until the glaze is thin and opaque.

Stainless steel mixing bowl with glaze and a whisk on a white and grey marble surface

Place a pan under the wire rack to catch the dripping and pour the glaze over the cake. You can either cover the cake completely or pour it in small chunks, depending on what you want the final cake to look like.

Round King Cake on a wire rack with glaze dripping off onto a metal baking sheet on a white and grey marble surface

Sprinkle the cake with alternating colored sugar. If you are hiding a trinket in the cake, do that before serving by pressing it in from the bottom of the cake.

Round King Cake decorated with white glaze and yellow, green, and purple sprinkles with a slice being lifted out to show the rolled cake with cream cheese and pecan filling (vertical)

Recipe

Originally Published On: March 4, 2019

Last Updated On: February 1, 2020

Round King Cake decorated with white glaze and yellow, green, and purple sprinkles with a slice being lifted out to show the rolled cake with cream cheese and pecan filling

King Cake with Cream Cheese and Pecan Filling

King Cake is a Mardi Gras tradition that has made it’s way to much of the Upper Gulf Coast. Bake your own to celebrate Mardi Gras!
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cake, mardi gras, new orleans, pecans
Servings: 32 pieces
4.58 from 7 votes

Ingredients

Dough
  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup water (warm)
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 3/4 cup bread flour
Filling
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup pecans (finely chopped)
Glaze
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter (melted)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tbsp milk
Other
  • 3-4 tbsp purple sugar sprinkles
  • 3-4 tbsp green sugar sprinkles
  • 3-4 tbsp yellow sugar sprinkles

Instructions

Dough
  • Combine the sour cream, butter, salt, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring until the butter melts and sour cream is no longer lumpy
  • Remove from the heat and allow it to cool to a temperature of about 100F-110F
  • Meanwhile, in a glass measuring cup, stir together the yeast, water, and 1 tbsp of sugar
  • Let it stand for 5 minutes
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, 2 eggs, and 2 cups of bread flour
  • Use the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed (I used speed 4) until it’s smooth, about one minute
  • Gradually stir in 4 more cups of the bread flour until it forms into a dough
  • Dust a work surface with 1/4 cup of the bread flour and turn the dough out
  • Knead while adding up to another 1/2 cup of bread flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic (the dough should be tacky but still release easily from the work surface)
  • Place the dough in a well-greased bowl and turn to cover with the grease
  • Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size (about 45-60 minutes, depending on the air temperature)
Filling
  • Meanwhile, prepare the filling by using the stand mixer with the whisk attachment to beat the cream cheese, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla until it’s smooth
  • Beat in the egg
Form Cakes
  • Once the dough has risen, gently punch it down and divide the dough in half, keeping one piece covered while working with the other
  • On a lightly floured work surface, roll one piece of the dough out to a rectangle about 22×12 inches
  • Spread half of the filling out over the dough leaving about 1/4″ around the edges
  • Sprinkle the filling with half of the chopped pecans
  • Starting with the long side, gently roll the cake and press the seam to seal
  • Place the cake with the seam side down and carefully roll into a circle
  • Press the edges together to seal. It may help to moisten the dough with a small amount of water to get it to stick together
  • Repeat with the second piece of cake dough and remaining filling and pecans
  • Cover the cakes and let them rise until they double in size (another 45-60 minutes)
Bake
  • Preheat the oven to 350F
  • Uncover the dough rings and bake them for about 25-30 minutes until they are a deep golden brown
  • Let the cake rest on the pan for about 10-15 minutes, then move to a wire rack to finish cooling completely (about 1 1/2 hours)
  • Meanwhile, bake the second cake if they didn’t both fit in the oven together
Glaze
  • Once the cakes have cooled, prepare the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar, melted butter, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl until crumbly
  • Stir in 3 tbsp of milk, adding more as needed until the glaze is thin and opaque
  • Place a pan under the wire rack to catch the dripping and pour the glaze over the cake
  • You can either cover the cake completely or pour it in small chunks, depending on what you want the final cake to look like
  • Sprinkle the cake with alternating colored sugar
  • If you are hiding a trinket in the cake, do that before serving by pressing it in from the bottom of the cake
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Nutrition Facts
King Cake with Cream Cheese and Pecan Filling
Amount Per Serving (1 piece)
Calories 307 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 6g30%
Cholesterol 45mg15%
Sodium 160mg7%
Potassium 91mg3%
Carbohydrates 42g14%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 22g24%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 381IU8%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 43mg4%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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26 thoughts on “King Cake with Cream Cheese and Pecan Filling”

  1. Beautiful colorful looking cake that has a great tradition. Good for parties or just to eat, I’ve never made one from scratch, but now I’m going to try too.!

  2. I want to make one solely because I want to put that little baby in the cake and make people find it! Ha! I will totally use your recipe to make that happen too! 🙂

  3. I’m pretty new to king cakes too. It’s certainly one of the most unique cakes out there! This looks delicious.

  4. Oh my! I’d never heard of King Cake until now. I thought it was an enormous fluffy donut! Definitely bookmarking this for a potluck since I’m living alone and I’d probably end up eating the whole thing by myself. Haha! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hah, it does look like a doughnut, doesn’t it?! Definitely save for a potluck or when you have people over, after we made it we gave some away to family and friends since it made so much!

  5. It sounds delicious. I’ve heard of it but never tried it. Just what my sweet thoot would love for lunch right now…Yummy!

    1. King Cake has a unique flavor, that’s for sure. I don’t care for store-bought because I don’t like the nuts in it. I prefer to make it myself so I can make one without.

  6. Hi Stephanie! I had never heard of this cake for Mardi Gras so I was super curious! Reading the recipe I must say it looks very similar (except the decoration) to a dessert we have in Argentina for the Epiphany (The three wise men, which we actually call “Los tres Reyes Magos” meaning The three wizard “Kings”!) this cake has a similar dough and it is called “Rosca de Reyes” meaning something like “Kings’ bagel (crown)”!! I wonder if it has some similar connotation to this cake of yours?? Maybe not and it is just a coincidence!
    What I’m sure of is that I’ll be making this cake for Mardi Gras as it looks simply delicious!

    1. Interesting, that does sound very similar! I’ll have to look up both and see if maybe the King Cake that I know was brought over and derived from the one you mention. It’s totally possible that it was and has just changed over the years here.

    1. King Cake is a staple here around this time of the year. I actually just saw it for the first time this year when I was at the grocery store last week. It’s much easier to buy, but more fun to make 🙂

  7. This is such a fun, festive cake! I love anything with cinnamon. I’ve only ever had the store bought version but it looks like a great recipe to try at home.

    1. My son just told me this morning “cinnamon makes everything taste better” so he is right there with you! I’ve had both storebought and homemade. Both are delicious!

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